Muskellunge Management: Fifty Years of Cooperation Among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists
Trends in Muskellunge Populations and Fisheries in Wisconsin during 1980-2015
Timothy D. Simonson
Abstract.—Wisconsin’s Muskellunge Esox masquinongy populations support important recreational and tribal fisheries. The objective of this study was to determine if temporal trends in Muskellunge populations and fisheries were consistent with overall management goals of sustaining viable populations and providing a trophy fishery. Indices of population abundance, angler use, and size-structure in Wisconsin lakes were tested for linear temporal trends from 1980 to 2015. Estimates of abundance of Muskellunge remained relatively unchanged through time. Likewise, angler effort and success changed little, as measured by access-point creel surveys, but tournament angler success improved, as measured by catches of Muskellunge by contest participants, who are presumably more intensive Muskellunge anglers. Available information suggests that restrictive fishing regulations, combined with voluntary release of legal-sized Muskellunge, reduced annual harvest and exploitation to low levels, thereby increasing size-structure of Wisconsin Muskellunge populations, compared with the 1980s. Although specific waters may still experience high harvest, low abundance, low size structure, or low angler success, the current status of Wisconsin’s Muskellunge fishery appears strong compared to the 1980s, and overall goals of sustaining populations and providing trophy fishing are being met. The relative influence of stocking versus natural reproduction needs further consideration.